We hardly need to inhale to soak in today’s smells. Mmmmm . . . turkey, Uncle Bert’s corn bread stuffing, homemade rolls, pumpkin pie baked from the back-of-the-can recipe.
Another something fills the air, too. We can’t exactly smell it. Nor can we see, taste or touch it. But we can feel it. And we can give it a word: gratitude. The very reason President Franklin Roosevelt set aside the fourth Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving.
Whatever your religion, whatever your beliefs, if you sit down for a meal today, chances are somebody at the table will utter words of thanks. The grace might be for health, for strength, for daily bread, for the people whose hands we touch as we pass the plates.
“This is a time to give thanks,” says Sister Patricia Ridgley, coordinator of the Maryknoll Mission education office. “At Christmas, gift giving is another factor - all the excitement, the stuff, the things. At Thanksgiving, it’s not as cluttered. The focus is on people coming together, sharing food from many places, remembering to be thankful, remembering what it is we’re thankful for.”
The word “grace” comes from the Latin word gratice, or “thanksgiving.” Throughout history, pagans as well as the devout have offered grace. Plato and Virgil invoked one of the gods before eating a meal. Rabbinical writers had detailed instructions on a blessing before food and drink. Jesus offered thanks at meals.
When Ken Brown and his family gather for Thanksgiving dinner, there’s no question who will say grace. His mother, Alma. She’s been the family’s figurehead since her husband, Mr. Brown’s father, died 33 years ago.